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Gateway to Emory Peak
The Rio Grande River comes down out of Colorado heads south through New Mexico and passes through El Paso, Texas where it now becomes the border between the United States and Mexico. The river flows 1254 miles in a South East direction toward the Gulf of Mexico but before getting there it makes a turn to the North East, creating a momentary bend in the river, This Is Big Bend National Park. The mountains in this park are a continuation of a mountain range in Mexico which will continue up into the US through Guadalupe National Park and into New Mexico. The highest Point in this park is Emory Peak at 7800 feet. This park is probably one of the remotest parks in the contiguous United States but despite being in the middle of nowhere has a lot to offer in hiking, camping and general sightseeing.
The Pinnacles Trail is one of two trails that lead up to the Chisos Mountains from Chisos Basin. The trail starts at the visitor center in Chisos Basin and heads up to the Pinnacles at the saddle between Toll Mountain and Emory Peak, Chisos Mountain’s highest point. This trail ascends to the saddle along the west side of Casa Grande Peak and Toll Mountain. From this saddle trails to Emory Peak and destinations further into the Chisos Mountains are available. This trail is well maintained and even though there is almost 1800 feet of elevation gain it is not a strenuous hike. Plenty of switchbacks make the climb easier. As you ascend this trail the views of Chisos Basin and the deserts to the north get better. Be prepared to bring all water you will require because water in the Chisos Mountains is not always available
The trail starts at the west end of the visitor center parking lot. The trail is signed and for the first quarter mile the Laguna Meadows Trail and the Pinnacles Trail share the same path. At a signed junction the Pinnacles Trail spits off to the left (east). The slope of this trail is pretty constant at about 700 feet per mile and where you start to climb up to the Pinnacles and the saddle the use of switchbacks maintains this slope. The trail is well maintained the whole way. At the saddle are a couple of bear boxes (there were no bears in them when I was there) and a Permanent bathroom.
The lower part of this trail is through an oak, shrub, cactus environment and fairly dry. Midway up this gives way to Juniper/Pinion forests. Along this stretch for a short distance the trail levels out a bit as it passes through a meadow. This is a very pleasant area and there is a short spur trail that leads to a camping area. From this area, in fact from along most of this trail are good views of Casa Grande Peak, Toll Mountain, the Pinnacles and Emory Peak. Shortly after the meadow the trail heads due west for a short distance before beginning the switchback portion of this trail. The views along the switchbacks are spectacular with the exception of the Pinnacles because you are in them and Emory Peak because you are too close below it. The Pinnacles trail ends at the saddle between Toll Mountain and Emory Peak. If your plans are to hike to Emory Peak and you plan on leaving gear at the saddle use the bear boxes. Boot Canyon Trail starts at the saddle and heads south into Boot Canyon and destination further in the Chisos Mountains.
I recommend starting this hike early especially as the days get warmer because you will be in the shadows of Toll Mountain. The other reason to start early is the experience of watching the sun rise over Casa Grande Peak and Toll Mountain slowing filling in the Chisos Basin.
Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.
This hike is listed as One-Way.
When hiking several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example.